This year with the monsoon on time and good rains the collection of conge or apple snails is in full swing. From the river beds and fields to kitchens the monsoon delicacy remains in demand despite the fear of contacting coronavirus and the restrictions imposed by the lockdown. Conge collection and selling is a regular economic activity and earns income for some during the monsoon time.
One can spot conge vendors along the roadsides and people are often seen stopping by to purchase. Over the years vendors selling conge have increased however this year allegedly there are fewer vendors.
Conge vendors can be spotted along the NH-17 near Mapusa and other areas. In earlier years hardly anyone used to sell conge as mostly residents collected conge for themselves. However the times have changed and one can find vendors selling conge along the road sides and also in various markets. According to vendors conge sales have dipped in the markets due to the pandemic.
The farmers mostly go around the fields and pick up the quantity required for the preparation of the curry for the family. If the collection is more than what is needed by the family it is distributed among relatives. According to farmers conge availability is decreasing over the years. “It is difficult to get the conges in such a large number in recent years due to the use of modern agricultural equipments like tractor which may play role in the destruction of the shells or use of chemicals in the fields.
Conge is in high demand in the state among residents, hotels and restaurants for its delicious taste. Several residents who like the conge curry very much do not mind paying high rates for it. The market rate depends on the supply and also the size. Some vendors sell the conge in vato (in parts) and some sell by number of pieces. In general the small conge are priced at Rs 100 per 100 pieces while the bigger ones are sold at around Rs 2 each, which comes to Rs 200 for 100 pieces. The price varies from vendor to vendor and area to area. High price does not deter residents from buying the monsoon delicacy.
A vendor on the high price of conge said, “We have to make some profit after selling the conge as the profit is our earning for the day. So naturally when we incur higher cost at the source the rate will be higher at the market. Moreover due to the fishing ban and less supply of fish in the market conge are in demand. It is not that the rates remain high forever. They go on fluctuating in the markets.”
Ground check reveals that, initially only few people consumed conge. However in the recent years the consumption of the snails has grown leading to fear of acute depletion of the snails and consequent ecological imbalance. No doubt the conge which surface during the monsoon season has been a delicacy for years in Goa, however, it is needed that we should not collect it in plenty. Commercial exploitation of conge may have adverse effect on the ecological cycle. In old days there was hardly any chemical fertilizers used in the agricultural fields, however, nowadays various chemical by way of pesticides are used which is having as effect on the conge and its production,” a farmer said.
There is considerable export potential for snails in the international market but for exports to take place from the state the local supply needs to be increased. Snails are relished in the kitchen and the shells are in demand from the cosmetic and other industries.